The Mongol Rally is well-known for the weird and wonderful vehicles that join its 10,000-mile trek across Europe and Asia every year. But as far as unlikely entrants go the all-electric Nissan Leaf, with its 150-mile driving range, must be one of the strangest.
Nevertheless, one pair of brave, or perhaps foolhardy, adventurers have taken a leap of faith and are planning to enter a Leaf in the charity rally when it sets off from the UK for deepest Mongolia this summer.
Of course, the car isn’t quite as you’d find in a showroom and with the support of Nissan and the expertise of RML Group, a leading high performance automotive engineering company, the Plug In Adventures team have created an all-terrain Leaf capable of taking on everything from the smooth French autoroutes to the harsh, broken surfaces of the Mongolian steppes.
Dubbed the Leaf AT-EV (All Terrain Electric Vehicle), the vehicle is based on a standard 30kWh Nissan Leaf Acenta, which offers a range of up to 155 miles on a single charge. This particular model has been fitted with special wheels and tyres for better performance on unsealed roads. It’s also been kitted out with welded plates to the underside of the wishbones, braided brake lines, mudflaps and a 6mm aluminium sump guard to add further protection from rough terrain.
“Not only will we face a dwindling number of EV chargers the further east we go, the terrain also becomes more difficult to navigate”
Spacious as the boot is, a 10,000-mile journey requires a lot of kit so the Leaf has also been fitted with a massive roof rack to extend storage. And to make sure the team can see where they’re going even in the darkest, remotest regions there a 16,400-lumen LED light bar to illuminate the road and blind any unwary yaks.
The Mongol Rally isn’t a timed event – simply completing the drive is tough enough – but the big challenge for the Plug In Adventures team will be keeping their rally-prepped Leaf charged along the route. Despite that they’ve left the battery and motor unchanged from standard, confident that they’ll complete the challenge in around six to eight weeks thanks to plenty of planning and some very canny driving.
Chris Ramsey, founder of Aberdeen-based Plug In Adventures, said: “The Mongol Rally is our most challenging electric vehicle drive to date, but it’s one we’ve been planning for a number of years. Not only will we face a dwindling number of EV chargers the further east we go, the terrain also becomes more difficult to navigate.
“Using a Nissan LEAF for this was an obvious decision though. I’m very familiar with the car, it’s always been reliable and dependable for me, and it has the largest network of rapid charging options in Europe. As it will also accept a 240v Commando connection even in the remote areas when my fast-charge options are gone, I can still charge the battery and keep moving. This journey is about the travel experience though, not reaching the destination in a fast time. I can’t wait to get out on the road and introduce more people to the advantages of electric vehicles, whatever country they’re from.”
Chris plans to make regular stops along the way to promote the benefits of running an all-electric vehicle to residents of the countries he’s passing through. He’ll also be using the What3Words platform to log the locations of some of the uncharted charging network, so that future EV drivers traversing the region can benefit from accurate charging point locations.
Gareth Dunsmore, director of electric vehicles for Nissan Europe, said: “Since we launched the Leaf in 2010, our customers have collectively driven over three billion kilometres, saving more than 500 million kilograms of CO2 emissions in the process. Our ‘Electrify the World’ initiative connects stories from these people who are living an electric lifestyle.
“Few Nissan LEAF owners have been more vocal or accomplished as Plug In Adventures at demonstrating that electric vehicles can do so much more than the daily commute. We applaud this ambitious driving challenge and wish them a safe and enjoyable journey.”